Isle of Wight cliff plunge car to be removed

A car which plunged off a 100-metre (328ft) cliff killing the man and woman inside is to be removed from the beach today as police begin an investigation.

Hampshire Police said the bodies were recovered from an upturned blue small MPV-type car at the bottom of Culver Down cliffs, Isle of Wight, yesterday evening.

Emergency services were called at around 8pm and battled against the incoming tide to try to recover the pair from the "very crushed" car, Solent Coastguard said.

A coastguard spokeswoman said three teams from Bembridge, Ryde and Ventnor were called to the scene, along with the coastguard helicopter from Solent.

Two lifeboats from Bembridge also joined the search with fire and rescue, ambulance and police teams.

Anne Ricketts, 47, a social worker from nearby Sandown, was walking her dog along the beach around the time of the accident. She said she saw a tractor dragging a trailer containing four firefighters towards the beach at the time.

Just after 8pm, she said she saw a coastguard helicopter drop someone into the water before leaving, while "truckloads" of rescuers from the coastguard were being dropped off nearby.

A police spokesman said: "Detectives on the Isle of Wight are today continuing their investigation after a man and a woman died when their car went over a cliff near Bembridge.

"The couple who died are thought to be in their 40s and 50s and from the island but official identification has not yet taken place and next of kin are still to be informed.

"Police are now investigating the circumstances which led to the incident.

"A post mortem is expected to be held later today and officers will also be looking to recover the vehicle from the bottom of the cliffs at some stage today.

"Officers have the beach and the cliff top currently cordoned off while they investigate.

"Officers say they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths."

Police forensic officers were today examining the cliff top road from where the car would have gone over on to the beach.

The cliff top paths and nearby beaches were all cordoned off to enable police to carry out their investigations and recover the vehicle.

Jayne Garner, from Totton, Southampton, Hampshire, who was staying in a nearby car park last night, said: "We were outside the caravan and saw the helicopter and watched it circling.

"We thought something was up because of the length of time they were taking."

A Hampshire and Isle of Wight police spokesman said that immediate next-of-kin of the two victims had been informed.

He said they were from different parts of the UK and formal identification procedures would take place later this week.

The spokesman said: "The couple who died were a man aged in his 50s and a woman aged in her 40s. They both lived on the Isle of Wight."

The spokesman added that post-mortem examinations were due to take place later today.

The car was a Renault Scenic, according to police.

The beach and the clifftop remain sealed off while a forensic examination of the area for evidence continues.

The spokesman said police were exploring options for the vehicle to be recovered safely from the beach some time this week.

Inspector Colin Hall, of Hampshire and Isle of Wight police, said: "Our investigation is focused on the couple's behaviour shortly before the car went over the cliff.

"We must consider every possibility at this early stage but detectives are not looking for anyone else suspected of being responsible for the deaths.

"We're continuing to appeal for more witnesses who may have seen a couple in a blue Renault Scenic car in or near the top car park at Culver on Wednesday evening.

"Police would like to thank members of the public for their co-operation and help with our inquiries so far. We're also grateful to our emergency service colleagues for their expertise at the scene."